Don Corleone devia ter morrido num pomar de limoeiros

«For decades, from mid-19th century through the mid-20th, if you were growing citrus in northwest Sicily—lemons especially—you were almost certainly dealing with the Mafia. As Helena Attlee writes in her history of Italian citrus, The Land Where Lemons Grow, “the speculation, extortion, intimidation, and protection rackets that characterize Mafia activity were first practiced and perfected in the mid-19th century among the citrus gardens of [Palermo].” In fact, the association was so strong that some historians and political economists now think the group actually arose directly from the citrus trade: life gave them lemons, and they made organized crime.»

«What made the lemon farmers such ripe targets? According to Attlee, much of the blame can be placed on the fruits themselves. “Among species of citrus in Italy, lemons are some of the most difficult and demanding to cultivate,” she says. They need well-fertilized soil, a steady supply of water, and protection from wind and extreme temperatures, all of which come only at great infrastructural cost. Most trees need to be coddled for seven or eight years before they produce enough lemons to sell. When they do bear fruit, it’s easy enough for people to steal it, especially when compared with smaller crops like wheat or olives.»

«The Mafia also controlled the trade itself, often buying a farm’s fruits to resell before they were even off the trees, and creating artificial shortages by picking green lemons and storing them until the prices improved. As Attlee writes, they had a sinister signal to show off their relationship with a particular grove: they’d nail a single lemon to one of the garden’s doors, and hang a shotgun cartridge next to it.»

«But next time you squeeze a lemon into your tea, take a moment to pay it some respect—it’s a fruit with a bloody history.»

Can We Blame the Mafia on Lemons?